Intelligence is your brain’s capacity to deal with a wide range of thoughts and ideas.

Like most things, therefore, intelligence is a process.

It is not a static state.

It is not something you either do or don’t at birth possess.

Your brain is something you cultivate.

Intelligence stems fundamentally from thinking.

Thinking is a choice. It requires one essential thing: effort.

Thought is work. Thought is effort.

Thinking develops your brain. It increases your intellectual power and range.

Non-thought, corollarily, is something you can change.

You become brilliant.

You learn to be smart.

You are not afraid of new ideas because you know your brain can measure and weigh and test these new ideas — in the same way your brain can create new onomatopoeias.

A cultivated mind is an intelligent mind.

It is also beautiful and strange and rather difficult to find.

Thought is both the source and also the end result: it is the goal. It is the driving force.

Intelligence is your ability to think.

This ability can be habituated and developed, or not, depending chiefly upon what you most prefer to do with your time.

You know you’re in the presence of a brain that’s been intelligently cultivated when you see some of the following:

Fast, fluid handwriting that’s legible

There’s a misbegotten notion that illegibility is a sign of a smart person, when in actuality it’s the other way around:

People who write legibly want to be understood. Thus they make an effort to present themselves clearly, which takes brain power. Quick clear handwriting shows practice and patience, which in turn shows cognitive cultivation.

Which is not to say that the opposite necessarily indicates unintelligence — it doesn’t necessarily — though it does often indicate a certain lack of concern for the delicate art of explication.

A clever wit invariably signals that someone’s mind has been cultivated

Wit is mental sharpness. It is cognitive acuity. It is cleverness. It is keenness.

Similarly — and for the same reasons — people who like to laugh, and who in turn like to make others laugh,  are to that extent unfailingly intelligent.

The word “wit” itself, incidentally, is the root of “wisdom” — as in “whiskey wisdom” — which, in turn, is a derivative of the Proto-Germanic witz, the Old Saxon witt, in Old Norse vit, in Danish vid, in Swedish vett, Old High German wizzi, all of which may be translated as “mental capacity, knowledge, understanding; to know.”

A sharp sense of time and direction show brain power

Why?

Because a sharp sense of time and direction indicate attention and focus.

The choice to focus or not is the seat of human thought.

The choice to pay attention is where it begins — and ends. It is the locus.

Smart people by definition are more curious

They are thus more tolerant of ambiguity, just as they are also more tolerant of differences in others — grasping, as they do, what for many is obvious:

The brain is a complicated place, and largely for this reason no two people are alike. This basic act of apprehension gives any person who performs it a more complex and sophisticated mode of thinking.

All humans by their nature desire to know, as Aristotle said. This fundamental fact is the very seat of curiosity, which, in turn, provokes investigation, study, learning.

Obsessive worry is an indicator of intelligence, because it discloses a racing mind that’s never at rest but always thinking, always considering

Which is why some of the greatest thinkers and innovators in world history were and are monomaniacal ruminators.

Smart people like to read for fun

People who take active pleasure in reading, rather than doing so out of duty and rather than reading purely for information, without any real joy or enthusiasm in the act, unquestionably have brains they’ve worked to cultivate — which means, among other things (and studies do confirm): avid readers have better memory function, communication skills, and focus.

Truly intelligent people like to often be alone

Which doesn’t necessarily mean they’re introverted (although they can be), nor does it mean they don’t like spending time among friends and with other people.

Rather, intelligent people prefer much privacy and space, just as they prefer to pick and choose the time they spend among others, precisely because they are more independent, and they value their independence — in part, perhaps, because it gives them time to think, as well as time to relax. Smart people — genuinely smart people, as against the book-smart and the pedantic and all the other imposters — are autonomous, and as such they have the authentic confidence that can only come from thought and the comprehension that thinking fosters.

Intelligent people are self-aware

They know themselves. And because they know themselves, intelligent people recognize their mistakes and failures, and strive to learn from them.

Self-awareness and insight into self is one of the few foolproof signs of intelligence.

People who can argue articulately and convincingly — and from many different angles — have, to that extent, clearly cultivated their brains

Their minds through practice are able to move nimbly from one idea to another, like a long-legged water-spider skating across the surface of a river.

Yet they are often slow to speak and swift to hear

Genuinely smart people make a habit of thinking about what they’re going to say before they say it. Their brains, also through practice, are honed in such a way that their brain has become quicker than their mouth.

What, after all, does it mean to be smart?

It means to stylize your mind, like a work of art.

It means to cultivate your thoughts for as long as you’re alive — cultivate your thoughts as if they’re the plants of a living garden.

Cultivate them, yes, before your ideas, only partially thought through, ooze into dogma and then fully harden.

It means to observe the universe around you, as well as the one within: to introspect, as thoughtful people do.

It means to be intelligent, like you.